Apple is picking up its work on an Apple-designed car and is aiming to create a fully autonomous vehicle, reports Bloomberg. Apple is “refocusing” the project around full self-driving vehicles, a goal that other car manufacturers have not been able to achieve.
Work on an Apple Car began way back in 2014, and since then, the project has gone through multiple transformations. At one point, rumors suggested Apple had abandoned its plans for a full vehicle and would instead focus on software, but rumors began picking up again in 2020. It’s now been made clear that Apple intends to launch its own vehicle.
As Bloomberg explains, Apple worked on two vehicle paths, one with limited self-driving capabilities and a second with full self-driving functionality that does not require human intervention, and the company will now pursue this second path under the leadership of Kevin Lynch, who joined the project earlier this year. Apple has hit a “milestone” in developing the self-driving car system, and has finished the core work on the chip that will power the first car.
The Apple car chip is the most advanced component that Apple has developed internally and is made up primarily of neural processors that can handle the artificial intelligence needed for autonomous driving. The chip’s capabilities mean it will run hot and likely require the development of a sophisticated cooling system.
The hope is to develop a vehicle that can spare customers from driving fatigue when they’re on long trips. But building an actual car – for an auto industry outsider like Apple – will require partnerships. The company has discussed deals with multiple manufacturers and has considered potentially building the vehicle in the U.S.
Apple wants to design a car that lacks a steering wheel or pedals, and with an interior that’s aimed at hands-off driving. Bloomberg said that Apple has considered a design similar to the Lifestyle Vehicle from Canoo, in which passengers sit along the sides of the vehicle, facing one another.
Apple is still discussing the inclusion of a steering wheel, which may be required so people can take over in an emergency situation An iPad-like tablet could be in the middle of the vehicle, which passengers would be able to interact with.
Apple wants its car to be safer than those manufactured by Waymo and Tesla, with redundancies and failsafes to avoid failures. The vehicle will be electric, with Apple discussing charging that’s compatible with the combined charging system so Apple vehicle owners can use a global network of chargers.
Using Lexus SUVs outfitted with LiDAR scanners and other equipment, Apple has been testing its self-driving system. Bloomberg says that Apple will test the new processor that it has developed in those cars, along with new self-driving sensors.
Apple is said to be aiming to launch its self-driving car in four years, which would put a debut right around 2025. Whether Apple will be able to hit that goal will depend on whether Apple can develop a full self-driving system. Should it not be able to meet its aims, Apple could delay launch or sell a car that’s less technologically advanced. The timeline is aggressive, and Apple is ramping up hiring to meet deadlines.